Thursday, December 18, 2008

Houston, your pages have landed

By post I received a card confirming receipt of my pages in the Big Apple, with a promise of response "within four weeks." My FedEx paranoia is resolved.

I'm finding every extra minute will come in handy. There's still much to improve throughout the manuscript, some chapters more than others, some characters especially, like the protagonist hold-over (re-named and re-cast) from the last version, who seems to have dragged all that book's flaws with him to the new story. I think within a week I'll feel marginally comfortable with the draft.

It didn't help reading James Woods' great re-review of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road in The New Yorker, where he writes of Yates' always-masterful dialogue:

...the same richly restrained prose, luxuriously lined but plain to the touch; the same anxious comedy; the same very cold, appraising eye; and the same superb ear for the foolish histrionics of speech. Out of the apparently diplomatic conformity of mid-twentieth-century American realism—the sort of style that made short stories commercially salable—bursts the monstrous ego of Yates’s male characters, smashing all the eggshell niceties. These men are vulnerable, easily provoked by female competition or resistance, and their theatrical, role-playing speech haplessly shrouds and reveals their anxieties, in clouds of unknowing.

Of course I thought, 'Oh shit, my dialogue isn't doing that!' I definitely should learn to shroud and reveal anxiety in clouds of unknowing before the next project.

Oh, and thanks to cool-mo Hoosier Poetess Micah Ling, whose first poetry collection, Thoughts on Myself, about the flyer Amelia Earhart, is now available for preorder from finishinglinepress.com. Micah helped me realize that the female pilot landing a seaplane at the fairground "amphibian airport" in Remedy Wheel not only could have been Earhart, but should have been. And so now she is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

working and waiting

I'm working and waiting nervously. This morning I checked the FedEx website and discovered my partial was delivered on time, but left "at the door" instead of with a signature confirmation. Normally I'd be fine with that, but in this case I embarked on a paranoid mind-trip about wrong buildings and sneaky saboteurs pilfering partial manuscripts from random doors on 19th Avenue. :-) I composed an email to the "info@" address for the agency, but my friend Jeff talked me down before I sent it.

To add more hopeful vibes to the affair, I secured the remedywheel.com domain name. Nothing there yet, and I won't post anything until there's reason. Okay, back to work.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

working as if

I sent the partial yesterday. Odds are the agent will pass on the novel. That's not false modesty or some lack of confidence in my story or my own ability to execute it; it's just reality in the literary fiction game, especially in today's publishing environment. But I'm accustomed to making big investments on long odds in May and June and this is no different. I'm working on the rest of the manuscript now as if the agent will request the "full." The only difference is that I'm sleeping eight hours a night now. If I get good news from New York, I'll cut that to three hours a night until I'm done. Like the stormchasers say, I can sleep when I'm dead.

The revision process is good, but I'm not cutting enough words. Hopefully I'll have time for another pass through. In the process of readying the partial I cut 1000 words, and discovered this when I merged those pages back into the main file. That was a happy surprise. I like the ratio, 1000 words cut every fifty pages. It would bring the project down to the number I need. Okay, more later.

Wish me luck! I need it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Taking a short break from the partial and synopsis I plan to send tomorrow. The first fifty pages were already in decent shape; now they're better. It's a revelation what you can do when you focus like a laser, a fanatic. Basically I've cut my sleep budget by about 70% and, besides the Cowboys game (big mistake) I've done nothing else since Friday evening.

The partial is good. The synopsis is hell. Remedy Wheel as of tonight is a 405 page novel with four point of view characters and intertweaving plot lines, set in places like the World's Fair and Langley Avenue All Nations Pentecostal Church. It resists extreme compression; so do I. The great agent-blogger "Miss Snark" called novel synopses a "totally weird form...like haiku on steroids." But that's the challenge.

When I finish, I'll write the cover letter, sometimes between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM, I guess. Tomorrow I print, re-read the partial (out loud), make more corrections, print again on good paper, and overnight the whole thing to New York. Then I'm going to sleep a few hours, catch up on grading at school, and go back into fanatical mode in the event of a request for the "full." Going to need more coffee.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A literary agent read my story "Lake Effect" in Yemassee yesterday and asked to see a partial from Remedy Wheel. It shows that agents still read the "little journals" and that they're still looking for books, even with the unpleasant publishing news of the last few days (layoffs, acquisitions freezes, etc).